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  • Writer's pictureJane Schnelker

Wiley’s Journey

One summer a year old coyote arrived at Wildlife Haven. Wiley had been taken from his parents in the wild and raised by a woman in northern Ohio. (Don’t you think she could have come up with a more original name?) When the situation was discovered, the county game protector called me and asked if I would take him - the alternative was for him to put the coyote down.

It is, of course, illegal for a member of the public to have a wild animal. The woman knew this but did it anyway. The coyote was not socialized with people, nor was he socialized with his own kind - making him unfit for release and yet too wild and mistrustful of people to be a good display animal here at our center. Besides, a coyote living alone is a pitiful thing. They are social beings, needing the companionship of their own kind. It was too risky to just release this guy - he would not necessarily know how to behave when confronted with another coyote and could risk being killed. And, of course, although hunting is instinctive, a good hunter needs plenty of time to learn the best methods and skills.

The woman delivered him here to us…… it was hard for me to deal with her politely. She had, in effect, doomed this animal to either death or a life in captivity. She cried and cried because she had to give him up - she made quite a scene actually. She made me promise that she could come back to visit him and that she could call and check on him. And, guess what? After all that I never heard from her again.

It was soon apparent that Wiley would never work out as a display animal. He was miserable with his solitary confinement. Even when given a large cage (about 20x30) out in the woods he would do nothing but pace around the perimeter. By mid-winter he had worn a deep trough all around the east and south sides of the pen. I tried to place him with several coyote rescue organizations but no one had any room. I seriously considered euthanizing him and putting him out of his obvious misery, but just could not bring myself to do it. I continued trying to find placement for him.

In May I got a call from Vernon Weir who lives in Las Vegas and was with the American Sanctuary Association ( . Vernon had found placement in Arizona for Wiley but now we had to figure out transportation. Several plans fell through, including a relay-type drive and a plane trip. And then Vernon discovered that a guy from Colorado was traveling to Ohio - on the road at that very time - to pick up a cat from a non-accredited ‘sanctuary’ that had been closed down due to inhumane conditions. He talked to him via cell phone and arranged for him to swing by here and pick up Wiley. Once in Colorado he would immediately be driven to Arizona by someone who was delivering a small exotic cat to an accredited sanctuary there. Finally!

The very next day, my volunteer and I had things ready and were awaiting the arrival of the truck from Colorado. Imagine our surprise when a huge tractor-trailer pulled into the driveway. Even more surprising was the cargo! Here we had been expecting a van or a panel truck with a cougar or a bobcat in a cage in the back. Instead we get a semi with 8 tigers in it! This fellow was taking them back to his place where he did big cat and bear rescue. I found out later that he has a wonderful place where the animals - cast-off ‘pets’ - live out their lives in wonderful big pens, given the best of care.

After a bit of difficulty we were able to pack Wiley up into a large carrier and off he went on his trip to Colorado, Arizona, and a new life.

As time went on I heard nothing from his new caretakers. I would think of him occasionally and hope that he was adjusting well. I had spoken on the phone to them at the time of placement and knew they had many coyotes in nice large compounds. So, I figured he was doing well.

On Christmas day I received an email from Linda, the woman in charge, along with half a dozen photos. What a wonderful gift! Wiley is neutered now, has received all his shots, and is living a much better life than he has ever had. He lives in a large compound with a nice above ground house that also has a den underneath it. He gets lots of good food, receives a new toy to destroy each week, and best of all he has a companion that he gets along well with!

Wiley will not ever live the wild life he should have….. But his home in Arizona is such an improvement over anything he has ever known! I am so grateful that I didn’t give up on his chances and also thankful to Vernon for all the work he did to make Wiley’s journey to his new life a success!

Wiley and his companion - best of friends.


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